Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found credible evidence that indicates the use of anti-personnel landmines during the recent armed conflict involving the Zintan alliance and the Libya Dawn alliance at Tripoli International Airport, Libya.

The US-based watchdog claims that the landmines were used by one or more militia groups between July and August, but failed to reveal the name of the concerned organisation.

Human Rights Watch arms director and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines chair Steve Goose said: "The use of anti-personnel landmines by any party anywhere is unacceptable.

"All parties should order their forces to stop using landmines and destroy any stocks immediately."

Tripoli airport was held by the Zintan alliance, comprising the Qaaqaa, Sawaeq and Madani brigades, from the end of 2011 until 24 August, and was then seized by the Misrata forces-led Libya Dawn alliance after five weeks of intense fighting.

Video footage filmed in September and aired by private Libyan satellite TV network, Alnabaa and Al Jazeera, showed Libya Dawn fighters clearing at least 20 T-AB-1 anti-personnel mines and one PRB M3 anti-vehicle mine.

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The mines were allegedly laid during fighting between the two militia groups.

In addition, an international journalist photographed the clearance of T-AB-1 anti-personnel mines and PRB-M3 anti-vehicle mines at Tripoli airport at two locations in September.

A Misrata Revolutionaries engineering unit commander said the unit has found and cleared nearly 600 landmines, mostly T-AB-1 anti-personnel mines, from the airport compound since 24 August.

"The use of anti-personnel landmines by any party anywhere is unacceptable."

A Libya Dawn commander claimed that Zintan militias laid the mines at the ‘old airport area’ in an indiscriminate manner, approximately ten to 15 days before control of the airport switched sides.

However, Zintan mayor Mustafa al-Barouni denied that Zintan-led militias had used anti-personnel or anti-vehicle mines.

Meanwhile, the UN has denied having ‘confirmed information’, while representatives of international mine action operators working in Libya refused to comment on the report, claiming their staff were unable to access the site.

Both mine types are almost entirely made of plastic and are extremely difficult to detect with metal detectors, endangering people trying to clear them. They were extensively used by pro-Gaddafi forces during the 2011 conflict.

HRW has called on Libya to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively bans the use of anti-personnel landmines.

Image: A Libya Dawn Alliance member clears T-AB-1 anti-personnel mines from the old airport area at Tripoli International Airport. Photo: © 2014 Maryline Dumas.

Defence Technology